March 25, 2019

The Israeli Race for Ex-Generals

“On the eve of the last election in 2015, professor Manuel Trajtenberg was one of the most sought-after people in the political campaign. Every large and mid-sized party tried to recruit the popular economist. In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Trajtenberg to head the Committee for Social and Economic Change, a group intended to restore calm after the masses took to the streets to protest the rising cost of living. The “Trajtenberg Committee,” as it became known, eventually published a detailed report. Some of its recommendations were even implemented. As a result, Trajtenberg became the most prominent socio-economic brand name in the entire country. He finally chose to join the Labor party, and they highlighted him as their candidate for finance minister and gave him the safe 11th spot on their list.

The 2015 election campaign was a direct consequence of the social protests, which began with the 2013 election when Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shafir, two leaders of the younger generation of protesters, were first elected to the Knesset. Without those protests, Moshe Kahlon, an icon of the Likud party’s social awareness, would never have founded his own party in 2014, won 10 seats and been appointed minister of finance.

The social protests caused Israelis to abandon old, established voting patterns and replace security concerns with economic issues. Until then, generals were always the hottest commodities. As unbelievable as it is, about half of all chiefs of staff eventually entered politics, with two of them — Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak — elected prime minister and many others serving as ministers. One general, Ariel Sharon, also served as prime minister. Some generals, like Rafael Eitan and Yigal Yadin, established their own successful political parties. All in all, dozens of senior officers eventually became politicians.

A quick glance at everything that has happened in the few days since early elections were called shows that the page has been turned back again and generals are once again sought-after brands.”

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